Having given Riders Republic a go over its free-to-play day, I can confirm that it really leans into Ubisoft's current obsession. Splashes of yellow and pink with the word "Blamo!" graffitied over the top, that whole thing. This is a Forza Horizon-esque trip, only you're not going to a pleasant festival in a car, you're going to an extreme sports resort with a roving band of TikTokers.
Swerve through the cringe on your bike, though, and there's some decent fun to be had. And for me, this wasn't so much in the game's fast and furious moments, but when it slowed the pace right down and transformed into a platformer of sorts.
As I've already mentioned, Riders Republic largely wants you to shred, bro. From the off, it drops you into this huge map littered with map markers and pushes you to chase them down. Once you've created your member of the gnarly army, that is, whose uniform is a checked shirt and a pair of ripped jeans. To help you navigate this vast expanse of canyons, snow, and ravines, you're armed with a radial menu that lets you choose from a bike, snowmobile, or a pair of skis. From my experience, it's the bike that wins out.
Not that the others aren't as cool, it's just that the bike lets you tackle the "Stunt" levels scattered across the game's map. Now, I tried a bunch of different things in Riders Republic. Traditional races where I ploughed down a mountain on wooden skis, or crunched down a mountain on a chunky bike. Air races where I whistled through checkpoints with a rocket-propelled wingsuit on. I even delivered pizzas to camp members on a bike, while dressed as a panda. But none came close to the humble "Stunt" courses.
Their name belies the activity, actually. I thought of "Stunt" as something in Riders Republic where you'd have to perform a sequence of tricks or partake in a spectacular set piece, a bit like when you race a train in Forza Horizon 4, for instance. Nope: they're difficult platforming sections that require precision and patience. Think Super Mario, but he's on a bike, and instead of pipes and blocks, you've got gaps and wooden beams to navigate. The aim of the game is to reach the end of the course within a set time limit.
What's brilliant about them is that they're essentially Trials games, but in Riders Republic. While speed is great and all, there's something brilliant about stripping a time trial back to basics: to win, you must wheel slowly through a course constructed of thin planks. No sweeping vistas or fireworks or frat boys yelling how stoked they are down the radio. It's just you, the bike, and this difficult level. In a game filled with noise, these physics puzzles provided some welcome respite.
You do need to screw your helmet on properly though, as you'll more than likely take a tumble. One Stunt level had me build up momentum, liftoff a ramp, then immediately transition into a series of hops across little wooden islands. After that? A twisty tree trunk bridge. There's a different sort of thrill to be had in these intricate playgrounds and it lies in mastery. You aren't necessarily beating anyone else to the finish, you're learning how to land and slow and turn. It's good that Rider's Republic recognises that biking encompasses more than pushing the pedals, it's about hitting the brakes too.